Google Maps to use augmented reality to guide you indoors

April 1st, 2021 | by Alfred Siew
Google Maps to use augmented reality to guide you indoors
SCREENSHOT: Google handout

If you’ve ever been lost in a shopping mall, train station or airport, you’d be glad that Google Maps will will start giving you directions using augmented reality, rather like how a helpful passerby would point you in the right direction.

By simply pointing your phone at your surroundings, you will get live prompts to, say, head down one level or go in a new direction towards the shop or departure gate you’re looking for.

This is a vast improvement over the current indoor maps, which tell you in which general direction to go but often are not as accurate as outdoor, GPS-guided instructions.

This new Live View feature will be available indoors in the coming months, starting with a number of malls in selected American cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, the technology giant said yesterday.

In the coming months, airports, malls and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich will offer the feature as well, while more cities are on the way, according to Dane Glasgow, Google’s vice-president for Google Maps.

The new feature will be especially helpful in navigating many heavily urbanised areas. Yes, that includes finding your way through the labyrinth that is Tokyo Station, for example.

The technology to enable this not simple, as you can imagine, because it involves identifying the precise altitude and placement of objects inside a building to make sure you are positioned correctly.

Google says it is able to do this with something called global localisation, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to scan tens of billions of Street View images to understand your orientation.

The use of AI is important in enabling the other 100 or so updates to Google Maps that were announced yesterday. Among these are more eco-friendly routes that Maps will offer in future, as well as added information on weather and air quality.

In Singapore, it will be easier to find places where the Covid-19 vaccine is available. Working with the Ministry of Health, Google will show a list of these locations when someone searches for, say, “Covid vaccine centres near me”.

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